With the ratings drain of the World Series no longer applicable, both AEW and NXT looked to improve their viewership this Wednesday, each with fallout from previous events to draw people in. NXT will hope to capitalise on the excitement generated by the ‘takeover’ of both main roster shows, SmackDown and RAW, while AEW seek to put the finishing touches on their upcoming PPV card. Each show promises to be compelling; let’s see which company gets the W in this week’s head to head.
Starting the Show
Obvious to anybody that watched SmackDown and RAW this past week, a receipt was coming for NXT from their bigger, richer brothers. NXT wasted no time in providing its audience with a massive draw-in moment with The O.C. – Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson and AJ Styles – all making their NXT debuts, annihilating members of the Undisputed Era before making their way inside Full Sail University.
With the champions of the brand dealt with, The O.C. laid claim to NXT which, of course, drew the attention of the Daddy of NXT, Tommaso Ciampa. In a cute moment, where Ciampa referenced questions of when he was going up to the main roster, the former NXT Champion formally welcomed Gallows, Anderson and Styles to the main roster. Joined by Matt Riddle and Keith Lee, Tommaso Ciampa laid down the challenge that would see AJ Styles wrestle in an NXT ring in the main event of the programme. An excellent start to the show keeps engaged any viewers giving NXT a chance for the first time, on the back of the events of RAW and SmackDown.
AEW got Wednesday’s action underway with a matchup between PAC and Trent. In this match, PAC went full Geordie goblin, taking Trent on a journey around the ringside area, bouncing him off various objects before returning to the ring and putting him down again with an over-the-top-rope dive.
PAC retained control of the matchup for the most part despite a relentless and savage assault by Orange Cassidy behind the referee’s back. After a strange moment in which PAC hit the Black Arrow, made the cover only for the referee to just stop counting at two despite Trent’s shoulders remaining on the mat, PAC ended the match with his version of the Rings of Saturn submission.
The more compelling show open here easily belonged to NXT on USA. The match between PAC and Trent was fine but it could have fit anywhere in the card and wouldn’t have kept my ‘dial’ on TNT if I were trying to decide between the two shows live, which should be the goal of every show open.
Match of the Night
Disappointingly, the match of the night was the #1 contenders match for the Cruiserweight Championship – Tony Nese vs. Angel Garza. Why am I disappointed? Quite simply because this is yet another reminder of how wasted the Cruiserweight roster has been in WWE and a spotlight shone on how incredible 205 Live could be / could have been if given the time and freedom to shine. This match, though, was fantastic. Angel Garza has all the makings of a top-tier WWE superstar with the wrestling ability to back it up. The back and forth, fast paced offense leading to Garza’s usual disrobe spot, interrupted by Tony Nese, brought forth a chop-fest that would make Ric Flair blush. While technically sound, this match also had a comedy moment in Tony Nese’s failed attempt to powerbomb Angel Garza, instead taking Garza’s rip-off trousers to slamtown.
This match was seconded only by the potential of the Angel Garza / Lio Rush match that will now follow. Angel Garza sent his message loud and clear following the match with a slap that echoed throughout the NXT arena.
The moment that fans have been clamouring for since The O.C. was formed has finally happened, albeit briefly. As chaos began to reign in the six man tag team main event of NXT, Finn Balor made his way ringside and came into contact with AJ Styles…
It’s not even close to the Finn joining The O.C. moment that fans of their Japan based stable Bullet Club would have hoped for but to see Styles throw up the horns as Balor brought out the guns – all in an NXT ring – was, frankly, too sweet.
Fun moments and other good stuff
- Not putting Dakota Kai on Rhea Ripley’s War Games team. I don’t know what it is about Kai but I just can’t get excited about her in any way… she’s fine in the ring, she’s okay on the mic… but something is missing.
- Cody’s promo on Chris Jericho (the rest of it was forgettable) including the diamond line, “It is almost like we shared the exact same silver spoon, you stupid dick.”
- The Jericho promo, featuring Chris’ aunt’s foulmouthed friend from church and the revelation that Jericho is the youngest AEW World Champion of all time.
- “Go back to RAW” chants. Full Sail audience buying right into the tribalism WWE are going for with Survivor Series
- The all out brawl including all of the compeitors for matches at Full Gear was a nice way to close out the programme. Keep fresh in the mind what they’ll be paying for on Saturday night with a little taste of what the action might be like – Mox with a barbed-wire bat, Young Bucks leaping from a height, the Inner Circle backing away with strength in numbers; very nice.
Room for improvement
- Weeks later, I still don’t know what Cody says during the start of his entrance music. The audio quality is so bad it just sounds like mumbling.
- I would have much preferred the Women’s War Games to be the only War Games at Takeover. Only having the one puts the spotlight on the women, makes them the headline attraction of the event. With the men doing their own War Games, that includes one team that is the same as the last two events, it not only waters down the match concept during that event but it removes the potential of three different championship matches at the event. Cole vs. Ciampa, Riddle/Lee vs. Fish/O’Reilly and Strong vs. literally anyone would have made the whole Takeover event a whole lot more complete a show. Other than Dunne/Dain/Priest (which will probably be a #1 contenders match for something) and an NXT Cruiserweight Championship match, how are they going to fill the card?
- The weird 80s bouncer dude fist bumping Isiah Kassidy’s pointing finger. Awkward.
- Also, bronze medals for a tournament in wrestling? Awkward.
What the ratings said
Mixed feelings about the viewer ratings this week. The media are raving about how NXT on USA almost beat AEW Dynamite for the first time but the overall picture is still fairly stark. NXT drew 813,000 viewers on Wednesday night, a rise on the previous week but still substantially down in comparison to their first few weeks and WWE ratings overall. More alarmingly, AEW Dynamite only drew 822,000 viewers – up on last week’s 759,000 but still way under the nearly 2 million views they pulled in for week one.
Long story short, AEW won, barely, but it doesn’t really feel like a win.
And the winner is…
This is becoming a trend, and I’m going to need to look more closely at what is lacking for AEW Dynamite week-on-week, but once again I found NXT to be the better, more well-rounded show this week. The Women’s matches were better on NXT with a more coherent build towards their PPV, we got to see AJ Styles and Finn Balor in the same sphere, Priest/Dunne, Swerve/Dijak and Nese/Garza were all PPV quality matches… the total package, in my book. NXT is now up 6-1 in the contest for best Wednesday Night Show. How long can they keep it up?
What did you think of NXT and AEW Dynamite? What were your highlights from both shows? Sound off in the comment section below or join me on Twitter @thejezshow.